It was a pleasant scene, and it brought back memories of my own confirmation, which occurred nearly 13 years ago. In particular, it reminded me of how clueless I was about the whole thing. Did I know what I was "signing-up" for? No. Did I really understand the content of the Christian faith to which I was pledging myself? No. Did I care if I was confirmed or not? Not in the slightest. Was I happy about the party afterwards? Perhaps, but only to the extent that cash from my relatives might be forthcoming.
In a section of Book on Adler, Kierkegaard depicts a lovely bourgeois family living in Christendom. Since they are (of course) Christians, when the time comes, their eldest son is confirmed:
"Let us then take the oldest of the children; he is now at the age when he is to be confirmed. It follows, of course, that the youth answers yes to the questions the pastor puts to him; how in all the world would anything else occur to the youth? Has one ever heard that anyone has answered no? On the other hand, it perhaps may have been pointed out to him that he should not answer too loudly and not too softly either, but should do it in a becoming and courteous manner... It is to such a degree obvious that he is to answer yes, indeed, to such a degree that his attention, instead of being directed to the answer, is directed to the purely aesthetic side of the formality. So he answers yes - neither too loudly nor too softly, but with the cheerful boldness and yet modest propriety that is becoming in a young person. On the day of confirmation, his father is somewhat more earnest than usual... The mother is moved; she has even cried in church... Thus the youth on his confirmation day will probably have a more solemn impression of the father, a moving impression of the mother; he will gratefully and joyfully remember this day as a beautiful recollection, but he does not receive any decisive Christian impression."
Kierkegaard's tale bears a striking resemblance to my own confirmation, and I doubt that I am alone in this matter. For many (if not most) of our youth, confirmation is merely a cultural "coming-of-age" event that carries very little religious significance. And parents tend to view the ceremony as proof that they have successfully raised Christian children (and, having done so, they no longer need to drag the kids to church on Sundays). Perhaps I'm being overly cynical, but it seems to me that our churches need to reconsider the nature of confirmation.
One suggestion would be to raise the "confirmation age". We should ask ourselves: Is a fifteen or sixteen-year-old person really mature enough to make such an important decision? After all, according to most experts, adolescence now lasts well into one's twenties, so perhaps we should postpone this rite of passage to a later date. That might make confirmation more meaningful for all involved.